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Predicated on this fundamental premise, the two questions central to this research are: how did China seek status in the case of the AIIB? And relatedly, in what ways is the new lender different from the existing multilateral development banks MDBs? Before proceeding any further, three caveats concerning the scope, case choice and methodology of the study need to be underscored. First, the article discusses mostly how China sought status in the case of the still-new AIIB and is by no means geared towards evaluating the effectiveness of the initiative, for the wider implications of the lender for global governance will probably not be felt in the short term.

Second, the AIIB is deliberately chosen and treated as an exemplifying case because it arguably illustrates how China seeks a global status commensurate with its increased economic, political and diplomatic clout. Third, this qualitative analysis relies principally on publicly available primary sources including official documents and media outlets, as well as secondary scholarly and policy-oriented works.

The article will proceed as follows. After reflecting on the main schools of thought and drawing out their analytical limitations, the second part presents the central tenets of the SIT framework, before contextualising it in IR and complementing it with the theoretical construct of institutional innovation for the subsequent case study. Three primary IR schools of thought offer contrasting answers. Dissatisfied with its underprivileged position in the post institutional foundations, China will in due course disturb the equilibrium of the global system by contesting the system-wide supremacy of the US Mearsheimer Constructivists take issue with neo-realist and liberal-institutionalist explanations, and foreground instead the less tangible and non-material structures of interacting international actors Checkel ; Finnemore ; Wendt While some scholars find little socialising effects Kent or even reverse socialisation Pu in Chinese multilateral diplomacy, others garner considerable empirical support for the limited but continuing socialisation of China to take up and internalise select global norms and practices Johnston Nonetheless, two analytic drawbacks stand out.

First, discussions on whether China is a status quo or revisionist power seem to have missed the point, because China can and does revamp the current international order to better serve its expansive needs and interests. Second, the leading strands of IR literature cannot justify in an adequate fashion why China adamantly refuses to accept some international norms and increasingly challenges the global order contrary to the predictions of liberals and constructivists but fights shy of completely overhauling or drastically reshaping the global system at variance with the neo-realist hypotheses.

Recognisably, there is a burgeoning array of research programmes centred on the underexamined status concerns that so pervade the foreign policy of China and other rising states Larson ; Larson and Shevchenko , , These seminal foundational works invariably conclude that aspiring powers prefer to leverage their distinctive strengths and win an enhanced status in a domain different from that of established powers, rather than competing with or assimilating into the dominant league. While these scholars have furnished persuasive evidence of status concerns in the overarching foreign policy by mostly taking a longitudinal perspective, they have relatively little to say about the causal dynamics for aspiring states like China to choose the strategy of social creativity over that of social mobility or social competition see infra.

More significantly, their conclusion is seldom borne out by examining critically and intensively concrete empirical cases that constitute the rubric of grand status-seeking strategy. To evaluate more adequately the relevance of their scholarship, it would be highly desirable to complement it with compelling case study research and link, where appropriate, individual foreign policy to macro state strategy.

East Asia and the study of law and development

To probe how China sought status in the case of the AIIB, this study draws on conceptual insights from a vibrant theoretical tradition of social psychology—social identity theory SIT. While in line with earlier SIT-inspired works on substantive grounds, this study diverges in two aspects. First, rather than starting out with the presumption that rising powers follow the strategy of social creativity and fixating on finding confirming evidence as done previously, this article takes a different track and investigates holistically all three strategies before reaching a conclusion.

Second, it deviates from the well-trodden research path by applying the SIT-informed perspective in IR in conjunction with inputs on institutional innovation to extend its analytical rigour to this specific case study. In particular, it brings in institutional innovation as a conceptual tool to better operationalise social creativity—the anticipated dominant strategy. Premised on a ubiquitous yearning for positive self-esteem, SIT suggests that individual members want their group to be superior and have greater value connotations in relation to relevant comparison groups.

Although scholars diverge over the extent to which the need for positive self-esteem and social identity stimulates intergroup discrimination, there is a near consensus that individuals make use of their group to secure psychologically positive distinctiveness Abrams and Hogg As a logical extension, how would individuals react when their group turns out inferior in intergroup comparison and is relegated to the lower rung of a status hierarchy, 1 and more pertinently, what would they do to change their low subjective status?

Tajfel and Turner , 43—44 laid out three distinctive reactions under contrasting conditions. On the contrary, when the structures and boundaries of intergroup relations are rigid, which renders it extremely difficult, if not impossible for individuals to divest themselves of an undesirable group membership, they will prefer group strategies to seek positive distinctiveness for their group by: either directly competing with the reference group in its sphere of superiority social competition ; or creatively comparing their own group to the reference group on other dimensions, redefining negative attributes associated with the in-group as positive, and changing altogether the reference group social creativity.

While social competition is concerned with the relative position of a group in a particular area and is thus zero sum Turner , social creativity is about identifying different dimensions to attain higher status and is not necessarily zero sum. Based on the theoretical constructs rooted in intergroup relations studies, Larson and Shevchenko , articulated the SIT apparatus in IR and appropriated it to analyse the foreign policy of Russia also Soviet Union and China in a different light from traditional rationalist accounts. Echoing the core SIT theoretical proposition in intergroup relations that individuals identify themselves with their group and act towards others as group members instead of individuals, they suggest that SIT can be applied to interstate relations.

A state may integrate elements of the three strategies in its foreign policy since they are ideal types and not mutually exclusive. Three identity management strategies Tajfel and Turner ; Larson and Shevchenko , Disidentify with the erstwhile group and move into a higher-status group through talent, diligence, luck or whatever other means.

Adhere to established rules of the game, follow common practices and join international organisations in hopes of being admitted into the elite club. Compete directly with higher-status groups in their area of superiority and seek to reverse the subjective position of the in-group and the out-group.

Engage in geopolitical rivalry, compete for sphere of influence, promote rival norms, values and institutions to equal or replace the leading powers. Compare the in-group with the out-group on new dimensions, reframe negative attributes or change the reference group. Find a distinctive niche, promote alternative models, norms and institutions in global governance to boost status and prestige.

Insofar as the overall foreign policy is concerned, SIT expects China to follow the social creativity strategy by engaging in favourable comparison with leading powers in a different sphere. Accordingly, it would eschew a drastic overhaul of the multilateral architecture and circumvent the risk of overt competition with the West. In view of the virtually unbridgeable discrepancies in political system and liberal values Pan , , China has neither the intention nor the capacity to imitate and join the West, whatever the grouping may be.

In reality, China has emerged as the undisputed informal leader of emerging and developing countries in regional and multilateral fora, challenging the leadership of established powers in areas like climate action. Moreover, it has made headway in initiating new norms and rules in diplomacy, foreign policy and global governance Chan ; Pu ; Yan , and promoting its distinctive model of political economy and development Breslin All these seem to validate the SIT theoretical prediction.

Nevertheless, a lingering question is whether the prediction would be equally conclusive if the perspective were switched to individual foreign policy. After all, any critical strategic choice or coordinated grand strategy can be disaggregated to a concrete set of ideas, approaches, objectives and instruments, allowing for the optimum use of limited resources to meet foreign policy goals that are given precedence Dueck , In anticipation of the main findings from empirical observation, this research anticipates that the predominant strategy followed by China in this specific case is indeed social creativity contra social mobility and social competition.

To better apply the identity management strategies, and especially in service of analysing the supposed value-added and distinctiveness of the new development lender in ways that outstrip the ability of SIT, it is both necessary and instructive to look at the theoretical construct of institutional innovation. To enrich the SIT with a supplementary model of how social creativity—the anticipated predominant strategy, crystallises in practice—this section theorises institutional innovation as an empirical manifestation of creativity.

Alternatively, it can manifest in the form of formal entities or structures with defined objectives such as international economic and financial institutions. Notwithstanding its relative stability and durability, both formal and informal institutions change over time and adjust to shifting circumstances. For many institutionalists Hargrave and Van de Ven ; Raffaelli and Glynn , institutional innovation includes both more disruptive or radical innovation i.

Quite often, it is met with contestation and opposition due to the dynamic tensions between institutional stability and change Hargadon and Douglas , Institutional innovation, they reasonably infer, is situated at the intersection or apex of the three inherently interrelated and mutually reinforcing constitutive components—novelty, usefulness, and legitimacy. Similar to other types of innovation, institutional innovation must be both novel in that it represents a new idea or design with distinguishable features from existing ones and useful in terms of having the capabilities to solve problems or secure goals, particularly in domains where current organisations fall short.

Accordingly, different strategies are required for an institutional innovation to demonstrate innovativeness, gain legitimacy and be readily accepted. Raffaelli and Glynn , — put forth two legitimation strategies: bridging from older and more familiar institutions or institutionalised practices to new and creative ones; highlighting new beliefs, issues, needs, problems and opportunities.

The first strategy stresses the need for some form of continuity between the past and the present and conformity to prevailing practices, whereas the second accounts for an innovation as a reflexive response to the emergence of new opportunities or critical changes in the general environment. In what follows, the study combines two streams of the aforementioned theoretical foundations—the three standard strategies applied to IR and pertinent insights into institutional innovation, to expound on how China sought an enhanced international status in the case of the AIIB.

More precisely, it looks into how Beijing played by the relevant rules of the game in the institution-building process while accentuating the purported value-added and distinctiveness of an arguably competing initiative. Taken together, the ensuing analysis serves to theoretically ascertain whether or not social creativity is preferred over social mobility or social competition, and empirically to bring out further how China sought status in this particular case.

Southeast Asia Prepares for New Economic Community

Overall, China followed international practices and was in favour of multilateralism in the setup of the AIIB, especially in the wake of the unexpected decisions of several Western countries to break ranks with the US and partake in the China-backed initiative. Unlike the common practice of forming international organisations, preceded usually by rounds of consultations and negotiations between main stakeholders, China unilaterally put forward the AIIB initiative and set the deadline at 31 March for applying as a prospective founding member PFM. The involvement of major European governments not only divided the US, Japan and other Western countries, but also effectively transformed the AIIB in obscurity into a serious multilateral financial venture.

In response, Chinese officials thereupon retooled the message and jettisoned the regional emphasis. While South Korea followed European countries and Australia to participate, Japan, alongside its closest ally the US, decided to stay outside. Up till its official launch in mid-January , the bank counted 57 members, including 37 Asian and 20 non-Asian countries. A notable example among these candidates is Canada, which applied for membership on 31 August Canadian Department of Finance Another noteworthy shift relates to the nature of the bank.

Of course, this does not necessarily mean that the earlier visions are irrational, considering the definitive imperative in China to reform its problematic foreign aid policy and domestic economic structure. Rather, linking the presumably multilateral AIIB to Chinese internal agenda would foreshadow and aggravate external concerns about the regime using the bank for its own narrow economic or political objectives.

In the face of intense scrutiny from established powers, accommodating participants and staunch holdouts alike, Beijing steered away from the two extremes. Now, the primary function of the AIIB, at least on paper, is neither to channel Chinese foreign aid to underdeveloped Asian economies nor to stimulate domestic economic restructuring, but, as declared in the Articles of Agreement AOA of the AIIB, to concentrate on Asian infrastructure with the aim of fostering broad-based sustainable economic and social development in Asia by partnering with current MDBs AIIB a , 1—2.

In parallel, a select group of seasoned international experts and MDB veterans were asked to prepare the draft AOA and map out the policy framework Jin a. In this framework, the AIIB is to all intents and purposes compatible with international practices. As an institutional innovation, the AIIB needs to be recognised and accepted. The realisation of both would require a certain degree of adherence to extant practices. To legitimise the nascent lender and win broader support, China adapted its stance on inter alia membership, primary function, shareholding and by implication one-vote veto power regarding the AIIB.

In the specific domain of development finance, the mere act of creating a multilateral lender means that China has taken a major step forward to endorse an institutional and multilateral approach. Beijing is not prepared to go all the way and reproduce Western formats unreservedly, however.

Richard Doner, Goodrich C. White Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Emory University

The China-DAC Study Group, created in with the express intention of strengthening dialogue and promoting mutual understanding between Chinese officials and OECD member states officials working in the field of development, has proven a failed attempt by the OECD to bring China into the current framework of development cooperation Ohno The ultimate goal is to equal and supersede the dominant states in their areas of superiority.

Due to the widely perceived illegitimacy of global economic governance institutional underpinnings, competition in such a fast-changing context has been both compelling and ongoing. Firstly, the AIIB is without doubt a warranted Chinese and Southern answer to their limited influence and the glacial pace of governance reforms within the global economic architecture. In purchasing power parity terms, the aggregate economic weight of emerging and developing countries overtook that of their developed counterparts in , growing further to make up 57 percent of global GDP in Kynge and Wheatley Their growing shares notwithstanding, Southern countries remain heavily underrepresented with regard to voting power and thus have limited influence in both policy initiatives and lending activities.

Moderate reforms in the WB and the IMF were proposed in to give more power to large emerging economies. Even in the wake of these reforms, the imbalance has not been substantively ameliorated Okano-Heijmans and Lanting , 24— In fact, China has taken the lead by conceiving channels of its own to redress the asymmetrical paradigm controlled by the West and clamour for greater sway in global economic governance beyond Western claims to leadership, as demonstrated by a wide array of parallel structures initiated either unilaterally by Beijing or jointly with other developing countries Heilmann et al.

The AIIB is a striking case in point.


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Without the prospect of substantial reforms resulting from conservative tendencies of the West and bureaucratic inertia of the traditional institutions Sohn , the AIIB will be imbued with a strong sense of competition and may pose as a rival alternative in the global governance game. Secondly, the AIIB is set to become a new purveyor of the competing worldview of China and other Southern nations to untie development lending from policy prescriptions. The DAC official development assistance enjoyed near-exclusive dominance in the s, but a handful of non-DAC countries have become consequential aid providers since the s Kim and Lightfoot But it has been increasing at an accelerating rate in recent years Kobayashi and Shimomura Through the Ministry of Commerce, two state policy banks—China Development Bank and China Export—Import Bank—and state-owned enterprises, Beijing, doles out sizeable grants, interest-free loans, concessional loans, and investments to other Southern countries with fewer strings attached as a quid pro quo for political allegiance and enhanced access to strategically important natural resources and export markets Sanderson and Forsythe Due to diverging approaches, external observers have expressed doubts about the expanding operations of rising donors like China and their destabilising effects on the landscape of global development cooperation.

Economic Governance and the Challenge of Flexibility in East Asia -

With its balance of representation and governance structure, the multilateral AIIB is not expected to merely do the bidding of the most powerful member. But it is bound to approximate its position towards China and other borrowing countries, thereby bringing more pressure to bear on crisis-hit financially constrained traditional donors and urging them to further reform the conditionality-driven framework of development cooperation. Thirdly, the AIIB features large among a series of Beijing-backed multilateral schemes, stoking controversies about their wider implications for the international system.

As a response to the wide governance gaps in the existing financial architecture and chronic financing shortfalls in infrastructure investment Chin , the Shanghai-based NDB and the CRA can equally threaten Western dominance in global economic governance. In addition, in September China is due to take on the G20 presidency and will doubtless seek to demonstrate and provide more leadership in global economic governance Chin and Dobson It does so by carving out a distinctive niche or promulgating alternative models, norms and institutions.

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Drawing on insights from institutional innovation, it appears prima facie that in the case of the AIIB the social creativity strategy unfolds along the triad—usefulness, novelty and legitimacy. Specifically, from the Chinese perspective the AIIB can be an institutional innovation that is useful, novel and legitimate. On many occasions, Chinese authorities highlighted the particular geographical and sectoral priority of the AIIB. This is a substantial difference from the heightened financing focus of the WB and the ADB on poverty reduction.

Over the past several decades, Asia has grown into an economic powerhouse and key driver of global growth. According to the IMF a , Asian economies will continue to outperform the rest of the world, despite the late turmoil. Also, due to the uncertainty of investment returns and the scale of capital requirement and time frame, traditional donors are reluctant to undertake physical infrastructure and invest instead more in social sectors Chin , thus leaving unmet critical needs of physical infrastructure financing.

At the same time, it is worth nuancing that the financial capability of the AIIB, while being a helpful boost, is limited. The majority of the funding must ultimately come from the private sector such as pension funds and insurers, which the AIIB eyes to leverage and mobilise Xinhua b. This begs the question: what is the value addition of the AIIB other than the modest amount of additional capital?

The possibility for exploring innovations to the current iconic governance models may be the answer one finds within Chinese officialdom. A systemic problem with many MDBs is the huge operational costs and unsatisfactory efficiency caused by slow, risk-averse and overtly bureaucratic procedures. Another widely recognised issue with the WB is the undue influence of the US on the overall disbursement of loans.

As demonstrated by some fine-grained empirical studies Fleck and Kilby ; Kilby , the WB lending often caters to US trade and foreign policy interests and its programme loans are more likely to be approved after countries adopting pro-US policies, thereby casting a certain amount of doubt on the claimed independence and impartiality of the worldwide development institution. In particular, two pronounced differences are worth mentioning because they offer a glimpse into the governance innovations avowed by Beijing that are conducive to a felicitous combination of improved efficiency with appropriate safeguards, at least notionally.

Testifying to its speedy operation, as of 25 July , slightly over seven months after it officially opened its doors, the bank had approved seven projects and prepared a multi-year pipeline of projects AIIB Adding to this is a technocratic approach to de-politicise development financing and disentangle it from the constraint of conditionality, reflecting the view of China and other borrowing countries.

However, the devil is in the detail. It remains debatable whether the AIIB can maintain rigorous policies and requisite standards while reducing bureaucracy and foreswearing conditionality. Its environmental and social framework approved in February has already been criticised by civil society actors not only for its lack of public consultation process, but also for its contents such as lack of oversight mechanism, omission of coal from the exclusion list and adoption of the phased approach 3 Kamal and Gallagher It should be noted nonetheless that projects co-financed by the AIIB with peer institutions are subject to their standards and protocols.

In any case, the reputation of the new institution will not arise from paying lip service to innovative features, but rest on its ability, buttressed by in-house expertise, on-the-ground capabilities and a strong-enough governance structure Kahn , to live up to the lofty expectations and make good on the grandiose rhetoric in actual undertakings. But most if not all, MDBs with a respectable amount of assets were created and remain dominated by the West, giving rather an insufficient voice to developing countries. For this reason, the AIIB has a rightful place to fill. In a sense, the AIIB is poised to become an influential multilateral institution truly owned by the Southern countries due to its allocation of voting power securing strong representation of developing countries.

In agreement with the mandate, the board is currently composed of nine regional and three non-regional directors. By bringing such a cluster of emerging and developing countries under a single tent, the AIIB may ipso facto become an upgraded platform for South—South cooperation. Of equal importance in this vein is the privileged position China enjoys in decision-making on the basis of its voting shares.

As stipulated in the AIIB charter, major decisions e. As such, China virtually enjoys veto power over critical issues as circumstances warrant. Having said that, a simple majority will suffice over matters including individual project approvals. Besides, according to Jin Liqun, China plans neither to exercise its de facto veto nor to retain it by increasing the super majority when its voting power is diluted after the entry of new members, as opposed to what the US did with the WB Fu a , b.

By employing SIT to enquire into the developments leading up to the advent of the AIIB and its early operation, it makes the case that social creativity is indeed the strategy preferred by China in the politics of this quintessential status-seeking initiative. Of course, the jury is still out on whether the new lender will be complementary or competitive. Nonetheless, the Chinese government mustered enormous political capital to reassure the West that the Beijing-based bank—an institutional innovation partly conceived out of simmering frustrations at the current global governance structures and unequivocal imperatives to contest for greater say therein—is a useful, novel and legitimate addition.

Hence, theoretically this case study of the AIIB substantiates the validity of the SIT-informed perspective on the preferred status-seeking strategy of rising powers and extends its explanatory reach to critically and intensively analysing individual foreign policy. Still, this analysis, honing in on one emblematic case in global economic governance, is in many ways just a beginning for a largely underresearched agenda on status seeking at the micro level. Further empirical research in other issue areas needs to be done so as to lend more weight to the SIT scholarship in IR.

Empirically, three findings yielded from this qualitative analysis can be indicative of the underlying rationale and strategic thinking to seek a greater status across a growing range of China-proposed alternative structures. To create a more favourable environment wherein rising powers can enhance status and influence, China has started building novel institutions in parallel with its active push to modify the system from within.

Second, in the setup of the AIIB, it can be argued that China largely respected international norms, rules and practices to allay doubt and gain legitimacy. Beijing was amenable to the concerns of established powers and modified its stance accordingly on a string of key issues.

Third and finally, from the Chinese perspective, the role of the multilateral lender, as other structures proposed by Beijing, is not competitive or confrontational but critical and complementary. It serves as a helpful, legitimately distinctive alternative rather than aiming to undercut existing institutions. Following positive experiences with the AIIB, there is little doubt that China will proceed with similar strategic thinking in the near future in a bid to boost its standing as a great power relative to leading powers in the global economic landscape.

For Tajfel and Turner, status is not a scarce resource as power or wealth but results from comparison and comes in various forms. It includes the Board of Governors, the Board of Directors and the management. It allows environmental and social impacts on indigenous groups to be assessed after project approval. The author would like to thank his supervisor Professor Stephan Keukeleire, fellow colleagues in the Leuven International and European Studies Institute, the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their perceptive comments.

This work has been carried out with financial support from the China Scholarship Council. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Original Article First Online: 20 October In the same spirit as ambitious individuals seeking a more positive identity, aspiring states search for a greater international status. When opportunities for mobility are precluded and structures of the international society are perceived as illegitimate and unstable, states wishing to change their position may resort to the strategy of social competition or social creativity.

Nevertheless, does it have the capacity to replace the established players in global development lending?

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The answer is writ large. The Chinese authorities professed repeatedly that the AIIB was not intent on upending the present architectural arrangements, but rather to play a complementary role. Lately, Jin pushed back again on such an assertion at the Boao Forum for Asia using the analogy of opening a new restaurant alongside present ones Fung Beyond political rhetoric, what speaks volumes in substance is that the AIIB officials have been studying the feasibility of co-financing eighteen projects submitted by the WB and eight by the ADB Orr Besides, regional and sub-regional development banks are not at all unprecedented.

Acknowledgments The author would like to thank his supervisor Professor Stephan Keukeleire, fellow colleagues in the Leuven International and European Studies Institute, the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their perceptive comments. Abrams, Dominic, and Michael A. Comments on the motivational status of self-esteem in social identity and intergroup discrimination. European Journal of Social Psychology 18 4 : — CrossRef Google Scholar. Anderlini, Jamil. China expands plans for World Bank rival.

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Lessons from East Asia for the euro area

Journal of International Development 23 5 : — Breslin, Shaun. International Affairs 87 6 : — Callaghan, Mike, and Paul Hubbard. China Economic Journal 9 2 : — Canadian Department of Finance. Accessed 31 Aug Chan, Gerald. China faces the world: making rules for a new order? Journal of Global Policy and Governance 2 1 : — Checkel, Jeffrey. The constructive turn in international relations theory. World Politics 50 02 : — Chen, Zhimin, and Zhongqi Pan. The International Spectator 46 4 : 79— Chen, Zhimin. Chin, Gregory T. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 25 4 : — Global Policy 5 3 : — Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: governance innovation and prospects.

Global Governance 22 1 : 11— Global Summitry 1 2 : — Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed 13 Apr Chinese State Council. Full text: action plan on the Belt and Road initiative. Accessed 5 July Christensen, Thomas J. Fostering stability or creating a monster? International Security 31 1 : 81— Dacin, M.


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